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Age-related macular degeneration : teaching the brain how to adapt to the disease

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an incurable eye disease that affects more than one million people in France. It is characterized by a damage of the central part of the retina, the macula. At an advanced stage, a blind spot appears in the center of the visual field, while peripheral vision is preserved. There is currently no cure for AMD. Recent studies in neuroscience have shown that it is possible to use a perceptual learning method to improve central visual functions in the case of pathologies such as myopia or amblyopia. In collaboration with the Retina Center of the Purpan Hospital, the ECO-3D team of the Cerco laboratory (CNRS UMR 5549) applied this approach to the peripheral region of the visual field in AMD patients who had totally lost their central vision. Patients followed training sessions for 2 months during which they had to detect the visual properties of objects. The idea was to force the brain to progressively improve perceptual performances in the intact peripheral region of the macula and to extend these improvements to the flawed central region through cerebral plasticity. The results obtained strongly suggest that this perceptual learning has indeed led to partial cortical reorganizations ; this is a promising first step in the collaboration between basic research and clinical research in the field of ophthalmology to develop rehabilitation methods aiming at improving visual performance and thus the autonomy of AMD patients.

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Mise à jour 11/01/2018